Legal eagle: Legal costs may be covered

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I recently contacted a solicitor to obtain advice about pursuing a claim for compensation relating to treatment that I received at my local hospital. In my first discussion with the solicitor she asked me to check all insurance policies and credit card agreements that I have for legal expenses insurance. What is it and why was I asked to do this? I am concerned that my premium may be affected.

Firstly I hope that the solicitor you contacted was a member of the Law Society or AvMA clinical negligence panels. It is very important to obtain specialist advice in relation to such claims. You can obtain details of a local specialist from the Law Society website.

Legal Expenses insurance is becoming more common. It is quite often added to your house or car insurance these days. Some credit card companies also provide it as part of a credit agreement. If you have this the insurance company will pay for a solicitor to deal with your claim provided you meet the terms of the policy and it appears the potential claim has reasonable prospects of success. If you want to find out check the schedule that will have been sent to you or ring the insurer. It is important that you do this quickly because most, if not all, policies require you to tell the insurer about any potential claim within certain time limits. Sometimes the insurer will try to persuade you to use the firm of solicitors they want because they have fee arrangements with them. Do not be put off; you can generally still use your local specialist solicitor and so speak to the solicitor again when you have checked your insurance policy. They will answer any questions you have.

The solicitor has asked you to look for the insurance because it is the most cost effective way for you to fund the cost of pursuing a claim. If you have this insurance then generally it would also avoid you having to enter into a “no win-no fee” agreement with the solicitor because he or she will be paid by the insurer. This may avoid any deductions being made from your compensation for the success fees that are paid with such agreements.

Finally a claim under the legal expenses section of any relevant policy will not affect the premium you will be asked to pay next year.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist medical negligence solicitors. To speak to a specialist please phone 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.